WITH more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia is the world’s largest island country.
And with over 260 million people, it is also the world’s fourth most populous country and the most populous Muslim-majority country.
So it comes as no surprise that Indonesia often highlights its rich Islamic culture in its bid to become the ultimate halal tourism destination in the world.
In fact, the country swept clean the World Halal Tourism Award in 2016 when it won 12 top categories, including World’s Best Airline for Halal Travellers (Garuda Indonesia), World’s Best Airport for Halal Travellers (Sultan Iskandar Muda International Airport, Aceh), and World’s Best Halal Culinary Destination (West Sumatera).
As a nod to the burgeoning halal industry and travel market, Indonesia has launched a Muslim travel index – the Mastercard-CrescentRating Indonesia Muslim Travel Index (IMTI) 2018, which assesses its provinces’ readiness in welcoming Muslim tourists.
“As the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, Indonesia has the core infrastructure and environment that can meet the needs of Muslim tourists,” CrescentRating & HalalTrip CEO Fazal Bahardeen said in a statement.
The index is based on four criteria: access, communication, environment, and services.
The 10 provinces included in IMTI 2018 are Aceh, Riau Islands, West Sumatra, Jakarta, West Java, Central Java, Yogyakarta, East Java, South Sulawesi, and West Nusa Tenggara (Lombok).
Lombok, which has long been shadowed by the neighbouring island of Bali, was picked as the main new halal tourist destination, followed by Aceh and Jakarta.
Unlike the Hindu-majority Bali, Lombok’s population is 90 percent Muslim.
In July 2018, a chain of earthquakes blitzed Lombok, leaving behind a trail of destruction, hundreds of stranded tourists, and at least US$437 million worth of damage.
Lombok, home to the pristine Gili islands, is highly dependent on tourism as it is the top contributor to the local economy. It is without a doubt that Lombok suffered a great loss of income but it has since gotten back up on its feet.
On top of the local government and tourism ministry pulling out all the stops to accelerate Lombok’s recovery, from creating awareness that it is indeed safe to visit, to pushing for more international direct flights, the local government is also committed to promoting Lombok as a Muslim-friendly destination.
The rebuilding of a handful of its 1,000 mosques destroyed in the earthquakes was also made a priority.
With these milestones in place, Indonesia is hoping to become the number one halal destination and attract five million Muslim tourists.
What does this mean for non-Muslim travelers?
Unlike the paradise island of Bali, known for its pulsating nightlife scene, Lombok encourages alcohol-free hotels. And in some Sharia-certified hotels, MTV has been removed from the list of TV channels available in the rooms as it is deemed too risque.
Non-Muslim guests should also take note that this means sunbathing and lounging around by the pool or at the beach in skimpy outfits may not be an option.
To add on, some hotels will turn away unmarried couples.
So it is important to identify the Sharia-certified accommodations., are usually labeled with the crescent moon, a symbol associated with Islam.
This article first appeared on our sister website Travel Wire Asia.